Fletcher to present new budget outlook

Shawntaye Hopkins

Gov. Ernie Fletcher will present a 2004-06 state budget proposal to the state legislature on Jan. 27.

Until then, university administrators across the state are holding their breaths, hoping that somehow their university will be spared the severty of the cuts.

On Jan. 27 Western and the other state colleges and universities will get their first glances at their respective budget futures.

Western administrators and state legislators don’t know what will happen with the next budget, but most expect nothing much different from this fiscal year.

President Gary Ransdell said he does not expect any increased funding in 2004-05, the first half of the state’s biennial fiscal year.

Ransdell said he hopes that by dealing with budget cuts now, state colleges and universities will be able to avoid further cuts next year.

But the second half of the state’s fiscal year might bring additional funds, he said.

“We’ve got an enormous budget shortfall and it’s only going to get worse in the next fiscal year,” said Tom Martin, spokesman for House Speaker Jody Richards, a Democrat from Bowling Green.

State Budget Director Brad Cowgill said the revenue shortfall this year is expected to be $302 million.

Fletcher told state agencies last month to reduce spending by 2.5 percent to help deal with the shortfall.

A possible $45 million cut in higher education could be used to generate $100 million to carry-over into the 2004-05 fiscal year.

Sen. Richie Sanders, chairman of the senate budget committee, said higher education will most likely remain stagnant for the next fiscal year – no cuts, but no increases.

Increasing funding in 2005-06 for higher education will depend on factors such as the economy, said Sanders, a Republican from Franklin.

Sandy Woodley, vice president of finance at the Council on Post-Secondary Education, said the CPE naturally proposes increased higher education budgets.

The CPE proposed $61 million increase in the 2004-05 budget and a $52.2 million increase in the 2005-06 budget.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]